Ida and David Garcia outside their home, less than a mile away from the Newman Power station, in Chaparral, New Mexico. Image: Claudia Silva. When Ida Garcia looks out the kitchen window during cool mornings, plumes billowing from a power plant less than a mile away in Texas obscure her view of the broad Chihuahuan desert skies and expansive vistas. During hot summer days the plumes disappear but she still worries.
“We see that plant everyday,” said Garcia of the Newman Power Station that sits between Chaparral, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas. “We see how all this smoke comes out from the stacks… We know that it’s not just steam.
As New Mexico continues to amp up vaccine distribution, health officials don’t appear to be allocating a greater number of doses to those living in low-income areas that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those areas include McKinley County, the southern border region, and communities in central New Mexico where some of the highest rates of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths have occurred.
Other than some targeted distribution to congregant facilities like nursing homes and prisons, as well as health care and medical workers, the state is taking an approach of calling up individuals who’ve registered on the state vaccine portal. People are prioritized based on various risk categories, such as age, underlying conditions, or being an essential worker. “…basically we’re randomizing them to see who will receive that vaccine dose,” New Mexico Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference. It’s an approach designed to ensure there is no favoritism in vaccine access, Collins said.
But the hardest hit populations are low income communities that are disproportionately Native American and Latino, Black and other communities of color, and there is currently no publicly available information about whether or not vaccine distribution is sufficiently reaching these groups.
After a year in which police use of lethal force against Black people awakened large swaths of the American public to a discussion about systemic racism, lawmakers in New Mexico are looking to reform policing and better protect civil liberties.
The Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked mass marches across the country, including in New Mexico, to protest the unequal and dangerous treatment Black people encounter in interactions with police.
New Mexico is no stranger to calls for greater scrutiny of law enforcement.
The U.S. Department of Justice forced the state’s largest law enforcement agency into a consent decree after concluding in 2014 the Albuquerque Police Department exhibited a troubling pattern of excessive force, including one of the highest rates in fatal shootings by its police officers. The killings haven’t been limited to APD, either. Between Floyd’s death this Memorial Day and the end of November, there were 11 fatal police-involved shootings across New Mexico, according to local news reports and a database of deadly police shootings maintained by the Washington Post.
Since 2015, when the Post began compiling data, New Mexico has recorded 115 law-enforcement shootings, New Mexico trails only Alaska for the highest rate of fatal police shootings in that time – 55 per one million residents. Soon after Floyd’s death, the state Legislature passed House Bill 5 that created a temporary New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to investigate and recommend ways to hold public officials to greater account, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signing the legislation June 26. Nearly four months later, on Oct.
Printed in white block letters, the question stretched across billboards around Albuquerque last summer. And it still haunts the mother of two, Elaine Maestas, who helped pay to put them up.
“What if emergency responders came armed with compassion instead of guns?”
In 2019 when her little sister Elisha Lucero’s mental health was deteriorating, 911 seemed like the only place to turn for help. “Leash” was in counseling to manage her worsening migraines and hallucinations, Maestas said, but she was deeply afraid of being hospitalized or medicated. So as her behavior became more erratic, she resisted her family’s entreaties to seek further treatment, and they felt they had no recourse but to call law enforcement to the South Valley address where she lived.
Fishing was one of Elisha Lucero’s favorite pastimes. In April of 2016 she met up with one of her best high school friends to fish at Tingley Beach, where she caught around seven fish off corn and fireballs.
ByMarjorie Childress, Shaun Griswold, and Aliya Uteuova |
The coronavirus feels the way it looks in widely circulated images, said Cleo Otero: like a thorn. “That’s how it felt inside my body, especially my lungs. It was painful. Like it was scratching the inside of your body. I could really literally feel the virus inside my body.”
Otero’s first clue she was sick came at the laundromat in Albuquerque where she usually buys a bag of spicy chips as she waits on her clothes.
Hill with her granddaughter. (Courtesy of Nandi Andrea Hill)
When Nandi Andrea Hill got pregnant at 21, she knew she wanted to have a home birth but couldn’t find a midwife, so she turned to her mother who coached her to have a natural birth without medical interventions. They planned to go to the hospital for the delivery itself, but the baby came faster than they expected.
“I ended up birthing her at home unplanned with paramedics that came rushing in my room, eight men. They didn’t catch her, she flew out and she did wonderful. They took me to the hospital, but literally when I was putting her up on my chest—I was in culinary arts—I said I need to be a midwife.
Brittany Clark, a young Mexican-American tattoo artist who grew up in the small border town of Fabens, Texas, recalled two of her classmates coming up to her on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day and asking if she wanted to play. “ ‘Ok let’s see if you can play with us,’ ” they told her. “They put their hands all in a circle and they actually told me I couldn’t play with them because I was ‘too white,’” explained Clark, now 22. Her naturally coiled hair and olive skin paired with the last name Clark make her identity ambiguous by nature. While some call her white, others sometimes assume she is mixed — usually Black with some other unidentified ethnicity or race.
Clark grew up in the predominantly Hispanic farming town about 20 miles outside of El Paso, Tex.